Our daughter was five years old and having her kindergarten physical, when I requested a flu shot for her. The pediatrician looked at me somewhat condescendingly and informed me my daughter most likely wouldn’t catch it and if she did, it would be a mild case that would build up her immunity. In my gut, I knew he was wrong, but was intimidated enough to obey him. Guess whose child got a horrible case of the flu with after effects that went on for weeks? (Guess whose child has had a flu shot every year since!)
Guilt seems to be a natural part of mothering. We read an article and second guess our selves. Little old ladies are constantly telling us to put the socks and shoes back on our babies before something horrid happens. (Not that I’m bitter or anything, but you try keeping shoes on a baby!) And then there are those times when we really do make mistakes – some of them even rather serious at times.
Guilt can freeze you as a mother. You become afraid to make decisions for fear of making a mistake and suffering more guilt. If your struggle with guilt is severe enough, it can paralyze you to the extent you are incapable of parenting at all.
Other moms may suffer from guilt about things that happened in their past. Whether they were bad choices or just bad circumstances, even things that would seem to have nothing to do with your ability to parent can actually hinder your abilities to parent in a healthy way.
Whether you are suffering from a case of mild or severe parental guilt or are trying to get past painful pre-parenting experiences, it is important to find a way past the pain and guilt. To parent the most effectively you need to be in the healthiest place emotionally, mentally and spiritually you can be. So how can you get past any guilt or pain you are suffering?
I was interested in reading Everett L. Worthington’s book, Moving Forward. Could he give parents with painful pasts the tools to move past the experience and forgive themselves, thereby allowing them to parent from a pain-free place?
Worthington was a psychology professor whose brother committed suicide. The book chronicles how he learned to work through the guilt in ways he believes others can use to work past whatever pain and guilt they are experiencing. He takes a Christian viewpoint, but this is not a Bible study. He combines scriptural principles with practical psychology techniques in his method.
On an intellectual level, I can see how his methods would be helpful. Since I haven’t tested the method personally, I can’t say I have had personal success (or failure) with his methods. I do think much of what he is advocating is good for general mental health and really would be good habits for most of us to establish. (My personal favorite is his advice on how to stop ruminating on negative things.)
My advice is to read through the entire book. There were a couple of places I began to question his ideas, but as the ideas were later fleshed out, I could see his point. My only criticism is that I feel he could have been more thorough in addressing inappropriate guilt. In his case, he felt his guilt was somewhat appropriate and I felt like it made him breeze too quickly through the idea. I am concerned childhood victims of assault and/or rape victims would not find enough reassurance that sometimes guilt is absolutely inappropriate and the person is a true victim.
My concern aside, I do think this book is a must read if you are struggling with guilt of any kind. It has plenty of step by step practical instructions to guide you through the process of working through your guilt and moving on to a healthier place. If you are a parent and struggle with feelings of guilt, please take the time to do the work necessary to release the guilt. Your children need a parent who is able to parent them as fully as possible. It will also teach them some very valuable lessons about dealing with any feelings of guilt they may face in their own futures.
After you have read the book and tried some of his methods, I would love to hear what you thought. Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.